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Flynn at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C, on Dec. 18, 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the case against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday, declaring it moot after President Trump's pardon last week.

Why it matters: The move by Sullivan, who has been targeted by Trump allies for his refusal to immediately dismiss the case after the Justice Department requested that he do so, brings an end to a three-year prosecution in which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

What they're saying: "President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one. Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot," Sullivan wrote in his opinion.

  • "[A] pardon does not necessarily render “innocent” a defendant of any alleged violation of the law. Indeed, the Supreme Court has recognized that the acceptance of a pardon implies a “confession” of guilt," Sullivan continued.
  • On the question of whether he would have dismissed the case had Trump not issued a pardon, Sullivan wrote that the Justice Department's stated rationales for dropping the charges are "dubious to say the least, arguably overcoming the strong presumption of regularity that usually attaches to prosecutorial decisions."

The big picture: Trump's pardon of Flynn was the first of several expected in the coming weeks, as Axios first reported. Trump is blindly discussing giving pardons "like Christmas gifts" to people who haven't even asked, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations told Axios.

Read the opinion.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jan 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The Swamp wins

President Trump on Jan. 28, 2017, with two aides he later pardoned — national security adviser Michael Flynn and strategist Steve Bannon. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It was 12:50 a.m. on Inauguration Day when President Trump announced 143 pardons and commutations — including a pardon for Steve Bannon. 17 minutes later, the White House released an executive order that said it all about his failure to "drain the Swamp," as he'd promised in the '16 campaign.

Driving the news: Trump revoked an executive order, signed eight days after he took office, that limits his appointees' lobbying for five years after leaving the administration.

Trump grants flurry of last-minute pardons

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

President Trump issued 73 pardons and commuted the sentences of 70 individuals early Wednesday, 11 hours from leaving office.

Why it matters: It's a last-minute gift to some of the president's loyalists and an evident use of executive power with only hours left of his presidency. Axios reported in December that Trump planned to grant pardons to "every person who ever talked to me."

Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."